Friday, August 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Lunches: a bento redemption story


So you know how my little girl starts Kindergarten this year? Well, I've been equal parts excited and apprehensive over the task of preparing both another child and another lunch every morning. Paige had attended a half-day preschool in the afternoon the past two years, so my morning rush up to this point only involved the two older boys.

Anyhow, Paige's very first day of Kindergarten, on Wednesday, was only a partial day. A partial day with only half the class. (Then the other half attended Thursday. Finally, the whole class comes together on Friday (today!) for a full day.)

On her way into the building for the first ever day ever. Wednesday, at approximately 8:15am.
PaigeFirstDay

All smiles. No hesitation. She's been ready for this her whole life. All five years of it.

We lead her to class. Find her cubby. Take her picture with the teacher. Pick a seat. Begin working with the Play-doh.
PaigesFirstPlaydoh

This is the last picture I snapped before I left the room. Paige was studiously cutting out a butterfly. 

I only sniffled and teared up a little as I walked out of the building at 8:35. And then I cried a lot as I drove to Starbucks.

USUALLY when kids have a minimum day they leave school at noon and there is no lunch period. So being that the first day of Kindergarten was not a full day I concluded she wouldn't be there for lunch.

Around 10:00am I pick up a flyer off the kitchen table that had all the Kindergarten scheduling on it and I see that Paige's day ends at 1:30. Not 12 noon as our minimum days usually are. Hmmm I thought. That's a long time to go without a lunch period. 

I have my husband call and inquire - oh, it turns out the Kindergarteners DO have lunch at school. Ohemgee.  On his way to work I have hubby stop at the school to put money in her lunch account so she can buy lunch in the cafeteria. I remember from past years that when the boys were beginning Kinder that the teachers actually requested that if your child was likely to buy lunch at some point during the year, to have them buy lunch on that first partial day because it is easier for the teacher to walk them through the process when they only have half the number of students to tend to. I have no doubt that there will be days Paige buys the cafeteria lunch this year. Okay, crisis averted.

At 10:45 I pull up the cafeteria lunch menu online and I see the options for the day - mini corn dogs or cheeseburger with smiley fries (and some sides I don't remember). Ohemgee. Paige is not picky overall, but she does not like corn dogs and she only likes GOOD burgers, like the kind we make at home. She turns her nose up to fast food burgers and I can only imagine the cafeteria burgers are a few notches below the likes of Five Guys. The last thing I want is for her first experience in the school cafeteria to be a sour one with a tray of food she won't eat in front of her. Crisis back on.

At 11:00am I frantically begin making her a last-minute-lunch to run down to school before her 11:30 lunchtime. I CLEARLY had lost my mind at this point because this is what I ended up doing:
photo-110


I made macaroni and cheese. Why??? I have no idea. It certainly would have been a lot faster to slap together a sandwich. Macaroni and cheese is her favorite food in the whole world, so I guess my brain just immediately shifted to that in the near-blind-panic I was feeling in the heat of the moment?  It was four minutes into the pasta boiling that I began to question my sanity.

Ergo, I present Paige's First School Lunch ever:
photo-109


Wop wop.  Packed in her new Thermos Funtainers she has a Annie's Macaroni and Cheese in the Food Jar and 2% milk in the Drink Bottle. 
I tossed these in her new pink EasyLunchboxes thermal lunch tote and at the last second added a cup of natural applesauce too.


Totally not the worst lunch ever, but certainly not what I had in mind for her first real Kindergarten lunch. As my friend Wendy of Wendolonia joked to me on Instagram - "That's it! You are OUT of the bento lunch bloggers club. Please turn in your keys and badge and wait by the door for security to escort you to your car".  
At least, I think she was joking.

By 11:25am I was rushing into the elementary school to stand by the cafeteria doors to pass my little lady her lunchbox just in the knick of time. 

Speaking of time. You know the best way to keep hot food hot is to heat the Thermos with boiling water for several minutes before filling with food, right? Well, to save time I poured the boiling water the pasta was cooking in into the Thermos Food Jar, just before straining the pasta. While the Food Jar heated up, and the pasta was straining, I prepared the cheese sauce. By the time I had stirred the mac & cheese together the Thermos was nice and hot and I didn't have to heat any water separately to do it. This was sort of awesome since we don't have a microwave and I can only boil water the old fashioned way -- on the stove top!

Fast forward to today, Friday, the first full day of Kindergarten. It is also Paige's first time to ride the bus to school. She was beyond excited.

I think this lunch of Paige's redeems me. Pretty happy with how it worked out. :)
1stDayPaigeBento



Packed in an EasyLunchboxes container:
- two little peanut butter and fruit preserve sandwiches, cut with an apple-shaped cookie cutter
- two pieces of school bus cheddar cheese 
- pretzels (under the cheese)
- two tiny chocolate chip cookies
- grapes and fruit leather, cut with a mini apple-shaped cookie cutter

The large pink silicone cup the sandwiches are in... I have no idea where you can find one. Mine were a gift from that wonderful Wendolonia lady, but if you aren't buds with Wendy (or at least live in the Bay Area of CA near a Daiso store) I think you might be out of luck. 

My favorite is the cheese. The cheese stands alone. :)
1stDayBusCheese

Making the buses was easy, I just used these cutters that cut out the bus shape and then used the other piece to press the impression into it that makes the bus look like a bus. To dress them up a bit I went a tad neurotic and actually used my new set of silicone (?) alpha stamps I just bought for scrapbooking (let's hear a woot for Project Life!), and then carefully dabbed black food coloring gel onto the stamps and stamped the cheese with ABC and 123.  The stamps were brand new, so I have no worries about toxic stamp pads or anything. 

The little cookies are in a tiny square dish with a mouse (actually, I'm pretty sure it's a bear, but for today it's a mouse) peeking over the rim. This is to pay tribute to Paige's class reading of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie and doing related projects with the book during these first days. :)

My crew this morning before walking to the bus stop. 

BTSthreekids


And I think this concludes the story of my tragic lunch saga and the longest ever post on this blog. Thanks if you made it this far. If you are new, don't be scared off, I'm usually not this verbose. :)

Supplies used in the making of these lunches:




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17 comments:

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Melissa, you are awesome! I am so amazed at your creativity all the time! I think you have inspired me to try (at least a little) more creativity in my kids' lunches this school year! Thank you!

Crystal

Myra of Mommy+Me Lunchbox said... [Reply to comment]

I love the school bus cheese!!!

Sarah - MoreThanYourAverageMom said... [Reply to comment]

Love it!! Cute lunch and cute story!

Jennifer Lacey said... [Reply to comment]

You are too funny!

Jayne said... [Reply to comment]

I can picture your husband rolling his eyes at different points in the story. Hilarious!

SWilkerson said... [Reply to comment]

How large are the apple sandwiches? like 3 inches tall. I have a K student too and trying to gauge how much to pack. Thanks!!

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Yeah, about 3". I use the large-ish multigrain bread and two apples took up just about the whole big slice.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I need help finding some cool cutters and such that are not too babyish for my son's lunches. Any suggestions? I'm struggling getting started!

Wendy said... [Reply to comment]

*Of course* I was joking! And your little school bus cheeses are rocking my world. I may have to acquire some of those....

Jenn @ BentoForKidlet said... [Reply to comment]

Whew! What an ordeal! Glad you got some lunch to her :D And day two is super super cute!!

Ivona said... [Reply to comment]

Woo hoo for the cheese! Awesome!

I now have to go order those because my kinder gartener is obsessed with school buses :)

We are facing our first day of kindergarten on Monday *sniff*

Meredith said... [Reply to comment]

This is adorable. I've been looking at those cutters. They are bigger than I thought. I have two boys, so I think the set would be a great addition to my bento collection. I'm glad the day worked out for everyone!

linzypooh49 said... [Reply to comment]

To pre heat our thermos I throw it under the keurig and put it on a small cup size while I am heating up my mac and cheese.

linzypooh49 said... [Reply to comment]

To pre heat my thermos. I throw it under the Keurig and use a small cup size to heat.

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Ooh, smart idea to use the Keurig!
My "fancy" coffee maker is little more than a beaker. I have to boil water on the stove in order to use it!

EasyLunchboxes (Kelly Lester) said... [Reply to comment]

Your kids are ADORABLE!!! And I love verbose. Great word. Great post :)

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Hey Anonymous (comment #8!) - as for where to find not-babyish cookie cutters... I guess I'm lucky that my oldest, even at 10 years old, doesn't see the cutesie cutters as babyish, he just thinks they are cute. It can be tricky to find some that look more edgy. I've found shapes like a lighting bolt, various dinosaur shapes, stars, at baking supply stores. Sports shapes are pretty easy to find too, even Michaels, JoAnns, etc. usually have those. Good luck! :)

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